Most Southern towns used to boast a boardinghouse where you could find a simple, quiet room and a communal dining room that offered at least two hearty meals a day. Boardinghouse food was de rigueur daily fare for locals, among them young, working class laborers, schoolteachers, bankers, washerwomen and middle-class merchants alike.
In 1943, a young Sema Wilkes took over a boardinghouse in historic downtown Savannah. Her goal was modest: to make a living by offering comfortable lodging and homestyle Southern cooking served family style in the downstairs dining room. Mrs. Wilkes picked up where the previous proprietor left off, cultivating relationships with nearby farmers who dug sweet potatoes for her in the fall and shelled whippoorwhill peas in the summer.